What is the Zika Virus?
- The Zika virus is transferred by the Aedes Mosquito, which currently is not found in Canada
- There are a number of countries that have been infected by the Zika virus within Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean and Mexico
- It is spread from mosquito to human, and also from mother to unborn baby
- Recently, it has also been found that the Zika virus can be sexually transmitted as the virus has been found in sperm. This is especially important for couples where the woman is pregnant and the man is infected⁴
- Symptoms in adults are mild and include joint pain, red eyes, rash, fever, muscle pain and headache
- Symptoms usually last from a few days to a week
- Only 20-25% of people infected will show symptoms³
- There has been an association between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and the Zika virus in two countries in outbreak⁶
- There is no vaccine or medicine to prevent this disease from occurring
- The best way to prevent getting infected is to avoid unnecessary travel to infected areas, and using protection against bug bites. Check HERE to see if the country you are travelling to has active transmission
Why is Getting the Zika Virus Worrisome for Pregnant Women?
During the recent outbreak in South America in 2015, a correlation was found between pregnant women being infected with the Zika virus and increased rate of congenital abnormalities, including microcephaly¹.
Microcephaly is a disorder where a baby’s head and brain are smaller than it should be right from birth. Frequently these babies will have developmental delays, vision and hearing loss, and seizures throughout their lives. There is no treatment available for microcephaly, but supports are available to enhance their quality of life⁵.
Further studies are needed to determine how exactly the Zika virus affects unborn babies or whether there is a causal link. Precautions should be taken to avoid contact with the virus if you are or may become pregnant³.
How Can Pregnant Women Avoid Getting the Zika Virus?
Since the Zika virus can be transmitted sexually through semen, pregnant women who have partners who reside in or have travelled to an area with Zika virus should abstain from intercourse or always use condoms correctly during vaginal sex, anal sex, and fellatio. It is unknown for how long sperm is infected with the virus⁴.
The Canadian and American governments are urging pregnant women in all trimesters to avoid travelling to countries known to have a Zika virus outbreak. If you must travel to these areas, strict practices on avoiding mosquito bites must be used.
The following practices can be used to avoid mosquito bites²:
- Use of bug sprays that contain DEET (safe for pregnant women to use)
- Wearing long sleeve shirts, long pants and hats.
- Staying away from or removing areas that mosquitoes can be found
- Staying in screened or air conditioned rooms
I Am Pregnant and Think I Have Contracted the Zika Virus
Pregnant women who think they may have or have had the Zika Virus, should go to their OB/GYN immediately to find out whether extra testing will be needed.
If you think you have contracted the Zika virus already, you should take extra precautions to avoid further mosquito bites as other people may become infected if they are bitten by the mosquito that bit you.
1 World Health Organization. (2016). Zika Virus Fact Sheet. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/zika/en/
2 Centers For Disease Controls and Prevention. (2016).Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/index.html
3 Government of Canada. (2016). Rapid Risk Assessment: The Risk of Zika Virus to Canadians. http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/publications/diseases-conditions-maladies-affections/risks-zika-virus-risques/index-eng.php
4 Centers For Disease Controls and Prevention. (2016). Interim Guidelines for Prevention of Sexual Transmission of Zika Virus – United States, 2016. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6505e1er.htm
5 Mayo Clinic. (2016). Microcephaly Definition. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/microcephaly/basics/definition/con-20034823
6 Public Health Agency of Canada. (2016). Travel Health Notice. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/tmp-pmv/notices-avis/notices-avis-eng.php?id=143